Classic Fashion Night

By Anatoli Bulti, September 01, 2019

It was a chilly Friday night, the lazy August sun replaced by dark clouds and heavy rain that seemed to be out for vengeance. The streets of Bole and Meskel Square were clogged with traffic, and loud honks from impatient drivers filled the air, but inside the Hyatt Regency, it was a completely different atmosphere. A live band was playing classical renditions of Ethiopian and Western music in the fountain area of the hotel where a fashion-show was about to take place.

Classic Fashion Night, organized by model Yohanees Assfaw, happened on 02 August, showcasing the works of young, up and coming Ethiopian designers. As the name implies, the theme for the event was ‘classic fashion’ evidenced by the array of suits and formal wear that walked the artificial grass runway throughout the night.   

Doors opened at 6 PM, and true to the popular saying “fashionably late”, most of the invited guests didn’t start arriving until an hour past the doors opening. But this allowed the few strays that came early to sip on some wine and mingle. As we waited for the seats to fill up, Kush Acoustics Quartet played wonderful melodies that mixed with the sound of the water from the fountains, setting the tone for the night.

The fashion show started around 8 PM, with women’s wear brand Ayni’s Designs presenting a collection of bags and dresses. The asymmetric cuts, draping of the cloaks and hooded coats and dresses were very reminiscent of modern Japanese styles, while the leather bags added a trendy look to the styling.

The theme was more apparent with the presentation of No. 9, a clothing brand and store that specializes on formal men’s wear. The male models were dressed in a variety of suits; from three pieces and body fitting blazers to bow ties and turtle necks.

Other brands like Zim Tibeb, Nahom Ethiopia and Sebatu also sent their designs down the wet run way, with looks ranging from colorful skirts to long “Menen” gowns to kimonos and umbrae faux fur coats. No. 9 store presented multiple times during the night, and it was when the brand broke away from their usual formal look and the mix of casual attire that it truly stood out.  I personally would have loved to see some of the female models dressed in the brands men’s wear just to add a little bit of edge to the rather monotonous lineup.

One thing that stood out was the representation in the model casting, with the audience breaking into screams and applauses whenever the two dark skinned female models walked down the runway. One of the constant criticism the fashion industry faces is the lack of representations of models with different body shapes, height and shades than what we have come accustomed to seeing over the years.  Skinny, tall and light skinned used to be the go to casting choices in the industry. But as beauty standards keep evolving and the industry becomes more inclusive, it was refreshing seeing this event also embracing the latest movement in the fashion world in their casting choices.

The show ran a little over an hour, with some of the guests leaving during the brief- and rather ill-timed- intermission before the final brand showed its pieces. For a fashion event with a theme like this one, the designs were more of a blend of contemporary and traditional rather than classic with its narrowed focus on formal men’s wear. Classic fashion encompasses looks that “never go out of style”, as the tag line for the event suggested, but audiences were left wanting more than suit and ties presented in their different stylistic variations.

All in all, despite the gloomy weather the organizers had managed to create a cozy atmosphere and a great platform to showcase the works of young designers in  an industry where most young designers are constantly struggling to get a foot in. Undoubtedly the fashion event of the season, Classic Fashion Night was a nice first stop before setting out to see what the rest of the city had to that cold Friday night.

Photo by: Photo Zola Studio